No. 13 Baylor seeks 5-0 start at rebuilding Iowa State
AMES, Iowa (AP) As tumultuous as Baylor's offseason was, the Bears' first month under interim coach Jim Grobe has gone relatively smoothly.
No. 13 Baylor (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) is the only team in the league with four wins. Last week it used four turnovers to hold off a talented Oklahoma State team 35-24 , and with Iowa State (1-3, 0-1) and Kansas (1-2, 0-0) up next, Baylor has a very realistic shot at finishing the first half of the season unbeaten.
''I think we've got to improve to be the kind of team we're capable of being. But I think we've got a talented football team,'' Grobe said.
The Cyclones are a big underdog against the Bears, a program that it used to share space with in the Big 12 basement.
But Iowa State might have turned a corner last week. After losing three straight under new coach Matt Campbell, the Cyclones destroyed San Jose State 44-10 behind an opportunistic defense and an emerging offense.
Baylor will be their toughest challenge yet though.
The Bears defense, often forgotten about as the offense racked up historic stats in recent years, is ranked among the nation's best. Baylor's ingenuity in the passing game has been paired with increased balance in 2016 as well, as it ranks second nationally with 326 rushing yards per game.
''They have really good football players. That hasn't changed,'' Campbell said. ''They expect to win. That hasn't changed.''
Here are some of the story lines to follow as Baylor gets set to make the trip to Ames:
STOUT BEARS D
The Bears are 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 13.5 points per game, first in pass efficiency defense and fifth in tackles for loss. Baylor also leads the Big 12 with nine takeaways.
''It's a pretty big deal. We have a group of guys who are hungry to try and go get the ball. Any time we see it loose, we go for it,'' linebacker Aiavion Edwards said.
CYCLONE QB SHUFFLE
Iowa State has split snaps between starter Joel Lanning and Jacob Park the past few games, and against San Jose State that rotation was a major success. The pair combined for over 300 yards and five touchdowns on 22 of 29 passing, with Park tossing for three scores in a breakout performance. The two are expected to get similar playing time against Baylor.
''Both have earned the right to play quarterback,'' Campbell said. But if the Cyclones get down early expect to see more of Park, the more accurate passer of the two.
NOT-SO RECORD NUMBERS
Baylor became just the second team in FBS history, along with BYU (1979-81), to lead the nation in scoring three years in a row with 48.1 points per game. The Bears have dipped a bit in that regard, averaging 42 points while playing just one Power Five school. But Iowa State is just seventh in the Big 12 in scoring defense, and Saturday's weather, often a big problem in the league's most northern outpost, is forecast to be perfect.
It's easy to forget how lopsided this series used to be - in favor of Iowa State. The Cyclones won four straight matchups from 1997-2004, including a 41-0 blowout in Ames in 2001. But Iowa State hasn't beaten Baylor since 2012, losing in Waco 71-7 the following season.
HE SAID IT
''Finally being able to get that first win is just a sigh of relief. Just knowing that we put in all of that work for a good reason,'' Iowa State wide receiver Allen Lazard said.